This 18-year-old girl who ended up in a coma for weeks after COVID-19 attacked her heart has woken up to find thousands have died.
The teenager named in reports as Elia Fontaine spent three weeks in a coma at the Citadel Hospital in the city of Liege after being one of the first Belgians to contract COVID-19.
Her mother Sylvie says that on 18th March, the first day of the confinement in Belgium “in the morning, Elia told me she had a stomach ache. I thought it was indigestion. She had no symptoms of COVID-19. She did not cough. And she didn’t have a fever. On the contrary, she was very cold…”
However, her condition worsened and she was taken to hospital for a cardiac emergency. Doctors then performed a COVID-19 test which came back positive.
Mother Sylvie says: “She knew there were very few victims at that time and it was only old people, so I had to explain to her that it also attacked young people and that she had it.”
Elia Fontaine narrowly escaped death because the virus apparently attacked her heart before her lungs, and she developed severe myocarditis, local media reports.
These serious complications led Liege’s caretakers to resort to ECMO, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, meaning means that Elia’s blood flow took place for 13 days through a machine which replaced both her heart and lungs.
The ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung by-pass machine used in open-heart surgery. It pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.
According to the reports, the technique is usually reserved for serious operations and requires a lot of staff. The technology requires the presence of a nurse 24 hours a day because the management of it is very complex.
Guy-Loup Duliere, an intensive care physician, explains: “We need perfusionists, and therefore nurses specialised in extracorporeal circulation.
“You need surgeons to insert cannulas, drainage and reinjection tubes, you need intensivists to take care of the patient more in the long run.”
When Elia woke up after three weeks in a coma, her mother explained to her that “in the meantime, there had been a lot of deaths [5,453 in Belgium, as of April 19], that the world was turning differently, but that now she would have to keep fighting because there is still a long way to go”.
After ECMO and time on a ventilator, Elia can now breathe on her own, local media report.
Her mother said: “Every day we have small victories that make her progress and she’s going to make it.”
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Story By: Ernest Bio Bogore, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
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